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First-generation college student motivated to help others

First-generation college student motivated to help others

NORFOLK, Neb. – Courtney Silvera may be a long way from his family, but he has found a home at Northeast Community College where he has a strong support system that he has relied on during his academic journey.

Silvera will graduate in May with an Associate of Arts degree in Communications. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native has career aspirations of becoming a motivational and transformational speaker when he completes his education. After Northeast, he is considering transferring to the University of Nebraska - Omaha or to Wayne State College to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communications. He is looking forward to using his background and education to support others in overcoming their own struggles and find success and happiness in their lives.  

The nephew of Christopher Silvera, he is a first-generation college student who understands the importance and opportunities that a college education will provide him. Courtney Silvera has a desire to spread wisdom and a positive message to others. It was through life experiences and prayer that led him to his calling. He wants to employ multiple methods and medias, such as podcasting and traveling nationwide, to spread his message. He has a calling to engage adolescents and to be able to offer a positive message of guidance to those who need it most.

In his personal life, Silvera credits his uncle with inspiring him to always do better and to become a better person.

“He is a persevering and strong Black man who is always willing to give everything he has to a cause he believes in,” Silvera said. “He is nowhere near perfect, but he is an inspiration to a lot of people.”

Josh Becker, director and an advisor in the TRIO program at Northeast, said Silvera’s dedication to gaining knowledge and experiences shines through in everything he does. TRIO is a federally funded program that assists income-eligible individuals, first-generation college students and those with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline to post-baccalaureate programs. It also focuses on career exploration, cultural and social enrichment and self-awareness.

Silvera has been an active member of Northeast’s TRIO Club and also performs with Northeast’s Concert Choir. He continually challenges himself in the choice of courses he enrolls in as he attempts to ensure his knowledge and experience-base are well rounded. That effort has led to Silvera amassing a cumulative grade point average of 3.0.  

For his commitment to his education and outlook on life, Silvera was named TRIO Student Support Services Student of the Month for January at Northeast Community College. Each month, a participating TRIO student is selected for the award based upon their work in TRIO and in other activities on campus or in the community. Award winners receive a plaque from the TRIO program and have their photo placed on the “TRIO Program Student of the Month” Achievement Recognition board. The board, located in the TRIO office, features the theme, True Leaders. It reads, “We define true leaders as those who are first to strive and who give their all for the success of the team. True leaders are first to see the need, envision the plan, and empower the team for action. By the strength of the leader's commitment, the power of the team is unleashed.”

Silvera said he owes a great deal to whom he has become to the actions and behavior that his role model - Uncle Christopher - has demonstrated. He also acknowledges multiple Northeast staff members with making a positive impact on his life. One of those individuals is Pattie Schuckman, residence life database specialist, whom Silvera said is “open to all ideas about self-worth and diversity and scoffs in the face of inequality.” Of Margaret Schultz, concert choir director and music instructor, “she has been a constant shoulder to lean on, and is a mother figure to all she encounters,” he said.

The respect is mutual.

“Courtney has been a delight to work with,” Schultz said. “We have had some great conversations, in addition to making music, and I wish him the best.”

Silvera also credits Becker with serving as a positive influence in his life. Throughout their many formal and informal discussions over the past two-and-a-half years, the pair have developed a relationship based on respect and trust. 
“Josh is a highly qualified role model, who openly offers pieces of his own past failures in hopes of helping change the futures of others,” Silvera said. “He doesn’t always have all the answers but he is extremely influential in guiding people along their way.”   

For Becker, Silvera has also made a lasting impression, declaring that Silvera is unlike any student he has ever worked with. Becker added that he is fortunate that their lives have crossed paths.

“Courtney and I come from backgrounds with little to no similarity on the surface, but we have found more common ground together than either of us would have ever imagined,” he said. “I greatly enjoy and will thoroughly miss the constant unannounced visits from Courtney, where we talk life, give one another a hard time, and have meaningful discussions about what our futures holds. It has been amazing to see the growth and development that Courtney has created for himself, and I am sincerely proud of the man he is becoming.”